Is Coffee good for asthmatics?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. It affects over 25 million Americans. Many people with asthma love coffee and wonder if they need to give it up or limit caffeine intake. This article reviews the research on coffee and asthma to help you decide if coffee is safe for you.

Does Caffeine Worsen Asthma Symptoms?

Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate and some sodas. It helps you feel more awake by blocking adenosine, a chemical that makes you feel tired.

Some research shows that caffeine may worsen asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. A study in the American Journal of Medicine found that caffeine can trigger bronchospasm, or narrowing of the airways, in up to 44% of people with asthma. The bronchospasm occurred within 4 hours of caffeine ingestion.

However, the effect seems to vary greatly by individual. Other studies have found no major impact of caffeine on lung function for most people with asthma.

If you find that caffeine seems to worsen your asthma symptoms, it’s best to avoid or limit intake. Keep a symptom journal to help identify triggers. For some asthma patients, caffeine in moderation is fine. Discuss your caffeine intake with your doctor.

Can Coffee Cause Asthma Attacks?

An asthma attack, also called an exacerbation, occurs when lungs become inflamed and swollen. Airways narrow, making breathing very difficult. Symptoms may include wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath.

Caffeine alone does not appear to trigger full-blown asthma attacks in most people. However, it may contribute to attacks in those who are sensitive to its effects.

A 2006 study in the journal Respiratory Medicine followed over 2,000 adults with asthma. Those who consumed the most caffeine (equivalent to 4 or more cups of coffee per day) had a modestly higher risk of asthma attacks compared to those consuming little caffeine.

However, this was only an association. The high caffeine group was more likely to smoke and had worse lung function overall, which may explain the higher attack rates.

For most asthma patients, coffee in moderation is unlikely to cause attacks on its own. However, since caffeine sensitivity varies so much, it is possible it can be a trigger for some. Pay attention to your individual response.

The Effects of Coffee Constituents on Asthma

Coffee contains over 1,000 compounds in addition to caffeine that may impact health. Some of coffee’s components may help asthma, while others could worsen it:

Caffeic acid – This antioxidant in coffee may help reduce inflammation involved in asthma. One mouse study showed caffeic acid decreased asthma-related inflammation in the lungs.

Diterpenes – Coffee oils contain irritating diterpenes like cafestol. These compounds may aggravate lung conditions. However, diterpenes are largely removed in filtered coffee.

Chlorogenic acid – This antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound is found in high amounts in coffee. In mice, chlorogenic acid reduced asthma-related swelling in the airways.

Trigonelline – This phytochemical in coffee demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects in asthmatic mice. More research is needed to confirm benefits.

So in addition to caffeine content, the balance of these compounds in coffee may also impact asthma. The overall effect likely depends on the individual and how their body responds.

Tips for Safely Consuming Coffee with Asthma

Most people with asthma do not need to completely avoid coffee. Many can enjoy it in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Here are some tips for consuming coffee safely with asthma:

– Drink filtered coffee to remove irritating oils
– Limit intake to 1-2 moderate cups per day
– Avoid large servings with extra shots of espresso
– Consider switching to half-caff or decaf varieties
– Avoid drinking coffee before exercise or outdoor activities
– Pay attention to signs of worsening asthma symptoms
– Be cautious with specialty coffees with added syrups/flavorings
– Choose lighter roasts which have slightly less caffeine
– Manage asthma effectively with your doctor’s recommended medications
– Carry your rescue inhaler if coffee seems to worsen symptoms

Talk to your doctor about your caffeine intake. They may recommend adjusting your dosage or choice of asthma medications if needed. With your doctor’s guidance, most asthma patients can safely enjoy coffee in moderation.

The Bottom Line

Moderate coffee consumption is unlikely to cause major issues for most adults with asthma.

However, caffeine can exacerbate symptoms like coughing and wheezing in those sensitive to its effects. It may also modestly increase risk of attacks.

Pay attention to your individual response and limit or avoid caffeine if it seems to significantly worsen your asthma. Stick to 1-2 cups of filtered coffee per day to minimize risks.

Some compounds in coffee like antioxidants may benefit asthma, while others like diterpenes can worsen it. Overall impact depends on the individual.

With proper management of your asthma, you may be able to enjoy coffee in moderation. Check with your doctor about any concerns. Be cautious but don’t necessarily assume coffee has to be completely off limits if you have asthma.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does decaf coffee affect asthma?

Decaf coffee has very low amounts of caffeine, so it is less likely to worsen asthma symptoms. However, decaf still contains other compounds that could impact asthma. If you have asthma, pay attention to your symptoms when drinking decaf coffee. Limit your intake if you notice any breathing difficulties.

Is cold brew coffee good for asthma?

Cold brew coffee is brewed slowly in cold water rather than with hot water. This process may result in slightly lower caffeine levels. However, cold brew still contains caffeine and other acids that can irritate the airways. It does not eliminate the risks of coffee for people with asthma.

Can coffee cause permanent asthma?

No, drinking coffee alone cannot cause you to develop permanent, chronic asthma if you did not have it before. However, for people who already have asthma, coffee may exacerbate their underlying condition. Avoiding triggers like caffeine can help keep asthma under better control.

Does coffee make asthma worse for children?

Yes, coffee and caffeine consumption can worsen asthma symptoms in children. Coffee is not recommended for kids. Teenagers with asthma should also limit or avoid caffeine. Children’s airways are smaller and more sensitive than adults. Caffeine acts as a stimulant that can trigger breathing issues in kids with asthma.

Should you avoid coffee during an asthma attack?

Yes, it is best to avoid any caffeine when you are having an acute asthma attack. The stimulant effects of coffee can worsen breathing difficulties during an attack. Do not consume any coffee beverages when experiencing asthma exacerbation symptoms until the attack has fully resolved.

The Effect of Coffee on Asthma By Age Group

Coffee may impact people with asthma differently based on their age. Here is an overview:


Coffee and caffeine consumption is not recommended for children, especially those with asthma. Caffeine acts as a stimulant and can worsen breathing issues. Children’s airways are smaller and more sensitive.


Teenagers with asthma should also avoid or strictly limit caffeine intake from coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks. Up to 2-3 days per week of very moderate caffeine may be ok, but advise teens with asthma to minimize intake.

Younger Adults

Healthy young adults can tolerate moderate coffee intake. However, those with asthma should limit caffeine to avoid worsening symptoms. Max of 1-2 cups daily, using filtered coffee to remove irritants.

Middle Age Adults

Middle aged adults with well managed asthma may be able to drink filtered coffee in moderation without major issues. Limit to 1-2 cups per day and monitor symptoms.

Older Adults

Older adults tend to be more sensitive to caffeine due to slower metabolism of it. If you have asthma and are over age 65, consider switching to half-caff or decaf. Limit coffee to max 1 cup per day and avoid in the evenings.

Coffee Alternatives for People with Asthma

If you have asthma, here are some alternatives to caffeinated coffee you can try:

– Decaf coffee
– Half-caff coffee
– Herbal tea
– Green tea or white tea
– Lowfat milk or nut milk
– Hot chocolate made with carob or cacao
– Chicory coffee substitute
– Roasted dandelion root tea
– Golden milk made with turmeric, ginger and cinnamon
– Matcha tea
– Chai tea made with decaf black tea and spices
– Teeccino herbal coffee alternative
– Mushroom coffee blends with low caffeine

Many of these options are naturally caffeine-free and may even have anti-inflammatory benefits. However, still consume them in moderation and watch for any asthma symptom triggers. Always check with your doctor about dietary changes. With some experimentation, you can find coffee alternatives to enjoy safely with asthma.


Most adults with asthma do not need to completely avoid coffee, but should limit intake. More than 2 cups of coffee daily is not recommended if you have asthma.

Caffeine can worsen asthma symptoms in some sensitive individuals. Pay attention to your personal tolerance.

Coffee’s other compounds like antioxidants may have mixed effects on asthma. Filtered coffee removes some irritants.

Kids and teens with asthma should avoid caffeine. Coffee alternatives like herbal tea, decaf and turmeric milk are safer options.

With your doctor’s guidance, you can find a moderate coffee routine that works for your asthma. Be cautious of caffeine but don’t necessarily feel you need to eliminate coffee altogether.

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